"A time to make friends" is the slogan of this World Cup and on the evidence of last night's opening game, Germany's team have taken it to heart.
Playing with very unteutonic verve and adventure they gave the 18th episode of this global jamboree the most vibrant of starts. Jürgen Klinsmann's exciting young side are unlikely to win the World Cup their defence is far too porous but they will win plenty of friends.
Buoyed by a stunning early goal from the outstanding Philipp Lahm they played without fear, never an easy task for a host team embarking on a campaign. Miroslav Klose, on his 28th birthday, added a poacher's double to the five goals he scored in the last World Cup before the excellent Torsten Frings wrapped up victory with a spectacular strike three minutes from time. However, it was only then that German supporters could truly start to celebrate after Paolo Wanchope, the former Premiership striker, had twice exposed the home team's square back four to keep Costa Rica in the game.
After eight goals in the last 10 opening matches, dating back to England's goalless draw against Uruguay in 1966, it was a thrilling departure from the norm. While it augured well for the tournament, goalkeepers have reason to be worried. The way the ball deviated for Germany's first and last goals suggests players everywhere will be advised to chance their luck from long range.
Klinsmann would not be drawn into commenting on the ball hardly surprising since the host team are sponsored by adidas, the ball's manufacturers but he was more effusive about his team. "We're working hard and we played to a high tempo which was pleasing. There are always going to be mistakes, and the opposition will always get chances, but it's important to start with a win."
Klinsmann badly needed the three points. He came into the match beset by a gathering media storm over the increasingly evident split with his team captain Michael Ballack. Chelsea's new signing was omitted, having been unable to train on Thursday Klinsmann refuses to pick players who do not train 48 hours before a game. Though Ballack insisted he was fit, Klinsmann would not relent.
Against this backdrop Klinsmann needed a good start. Lahm provided it. He collected a loose ball on the left flank, cut in, and with his right foot drove the ball in off the far post.
Costa Rica briefly seemed about to capitulate embarrassingly and had Bernd Schneider taken advantage when Klose dispossessed Luis Marin they might have done. Instead, the Central American side levelled after 12 minutes when Walter Centeno released Wanchope behind the German defence, Arne Friedrich playing him on side. The rubber-legged striker seemed to take an age before sliding the ball past Jens Lehmann, who is a doubt for Wednesday's game against Poland after injuring his ankle.
Germany's response was impressive. Five minutes later Schneider pulled the ball back for Bastian Schweinsteiger ,whose cross shot was turned in at the far post by Klose. Germany continued to press, but the Ticos held out until just after the hour. When their resistance was finally broken it was no surprise that Lahm, always eager to support the attack, was involved, delivering a cross which Klose met with a firm header at the far post. Jose Porras parried the header but Klose thumped in the rebound.
"That's the way I was hoping my birthday would be," Klose said. "I'm very happy we've won, but we've got to do a better job in defence." That was underlined when, somewhat improbably, Wanchope struck again. This time he looked offside as he drifted on to another pass from Centeno, but the linesman's flag stayed down and he scored with aplomb.
To their credit Germany did not sit back and they were rewarded when Frings ran on to a squared free-kick to beat Porras from 35 yards. "We scored a lot of goals, that's important," said Lahm, "but it's clear we can't give so many away."
Certainly, when the final whistle went Klinsmann's face as he turned to the bench betrayed the tension of the build-up when it showed not joy but exhausted relief.Reuse content